It took us long enough to get here – after a long TiVo delay while Pookie was at work, it’s finally time to fire up the game. We get started out with a happy little look back at the recent road trip, about which Doc and Chico are, understandably, effusive. They move on, then to the Stars and the story there is apparently Mike Modano, and the fact that this is the Devils first Western Conference opponent this year. Yay, unbalanced schedule.
Aww! It’s 500th win celebration night! The Devils gave Marty the requisite ugly-assed painting. We get a moment then with Steve and Dano before the game starts, and Dano tells us the dressing room was, prior to Langer’s return, “like a morgue”. He really never pulls his punches, does he? Some might call it a lack of tact, but we just call it Dano being Dano.
18:37 This one starts out with a marked lack of intensity. The puck drifts around for a while before a Devils icing, and looking at The Rock, it seems the Devils dressing room isn’t the only place that’s very like a morgue.
17:19 Hey! It’s another icing! This one so far has been well worth the wait!
16:25 The Patty line gives us a moment of hope for excitement in this game, generating a half-decent scoring chance off a nice rush. Turco, though, is up to the challenge.
15:52 Chico rambles on in a story that concludes with the earth-shattering revelation that Morrow and Langer are very similar types of players.
15:05 Pando skates around the boards in the Stars zone, dogged by Niskanen. Pookie: “Happy Meals v. Pando. Who will win? My guess is Pando, because if you put a happy meal in front of a raccoon, what do you think will happen?”
14:30 Ribiero gets a wide-open chance at the side of the net, with Marty hung up in traffic, and he just flat-out shanks the shot.
13:59 Marty shuts things down with a snappy glove save after it looks like the Stars are really the only team that showed up to play tonight.
12:17 Schnookie, watching the Stars work the puck with ease around the boards behind Marty, asks, “Is there a time of possession stat we could see?” Pookie: “I’m not paying very close attention, but I can say if there was one, I’m guessing it would be 100% to the Stars and 0% to the Devils.”
11:53 We are stunned to find out Happy Meals is American. We thought he was Finnish. Chico blathers on about how Happy Meals went to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and Pookie says, when he finishes, “That made no sense, Chico, but I’m happy there’s a guy from Duluth in this game for you.” Then, to us, “Duluth boys are to Chico as Shattuck boys are to me.”
10:09 Eek! We are informed that Travis was selected with a draft pick that once belonged to the Stars. Horrors!
9:26 Halpern holds Zubrus along the boards going into the Dallas zone. Pookie, smirking at Halpern’s Princeton pedigree: “Smart my ass.”
9:18 What a stunning outcome – the Devils come out like poop, get the first power play, and let Barnes score shorthanded on as putridly soft a goal as Marty has ever given up.
8:30 Pookie: “The boys look as into this as I am. It’s like they’re playing on a TiVo delay.”
7:53 Turco freezes the puck on a weak series of shots from Travis, and Chico tries to tell us the Devils are looking good on this power play, other than, you know, the shortie. Schnookie: “Chico, don’t patronize us.”
6:38 Paulie carries the puck out from his own zone, darts through the neutral zone, gains the blue line, then shoots way wide. Schnookie: “That was Paulie’s attempt at fucking this shit.” Pookie: “Yeah, but he only got through ‘fuck’.”
6:20 In all his years as the color guy for the Devils, Chico has always been Marty’s biggest apologist. But when Jokinen drifts an eminently stoppable shot at him that floats under his glove to give the Stars a 2-0 lead, Chico immediately says, “I don’t think Sutter can wait any longer” to pull Marty. Our thoughts exactly.
4:34 Boucher hauls Sarge down on the boards to Turco’s left and the Devils proceed to take a week to turn the puck over on the delayed penalty. As Mottau drifts down into his own zone to regroup during the play, we see the Devils’ net is empty. Pookie: “Okay, Marty’s already at the bench. So just don’t let him back in.”
4:23 The Stars clear the puck the length of the ice, and we are dismayed to see Marty has, indeed, made his way back onto the ice.
2:36 The forwards labor to put together a scoring chance for Zubrus in front, and when the puck finally arrives, he just sort of falls over on it. Pookie: “That’s like he decided, ‘I could shoot now, but first… I want to breakdance!’ And then he realized he doesn’t know how to breakdance, so that was the best he could do.”
1:18 Marty earns his second wave of sarcastic, derisive applause from us (the first came on a Stars dump-in). Really, Sutter – take him out.
1:05 Modano whips his stick into Gio’s face like he’s fly-fishing with it or something. Gio is not a profuse enough bleeder, though, so it’s only a single minor. Doc and Chico mutter about how a goal here would be great “because 2-1 with a Devils power play goal will look much better to the fans.” Pookie: “Eh, it’ll still look like crap to Devils fans.”
0:00 Okay, that was every which kind of awful, and to make matters worse, Marty isn’t giving his team a chance to win here. Maybe, if we’re really lucky, the Devils were just trying to get their second period out of the way first. That’s not bloody likely, though.
We sit through a lengthy, rambling time-filling bit with Doc, touching on the impending changes to the schedule, and then running down the entire Devils statistical leaderboard, and our reward for our patience? An interview with Stu Barnes. Thank God for TiVo.
Dano hems and haws when asked by Steve about Marty’s performance tonight, and we get a look at how painful it is for a guy with no tact to tiptoe around saying a HOF goalie is sucking ass. Dano is also, just like we are, baffled by the scratching of Greener tonight.
20:00 Doc leads us out of commercial saying something about “blurring up letters” on the screen or something. We look at the man in goal for the Devils, and Pookie sighs, “Can you blur up those letters so they say ‘Weekes’ instead of ‘Brodeur’?”
19:03 We will grudgingly concede that the Devils did manage to mount a bit of pressure in the remainder of that carryover power play. But they still, for the most part, suck. (Replay shows that the best scoring chance on that sequence came from Patty knowing the perfect spot to dump the puck in toward to get a great bounce kicking out in front of the net. We let only slight smiles crack our stony facades as we attempt to radiate our displeasure so the players in a game that ended two hours ago will know how angry we are. We think it’s working, too. The Devils definitely look ashamed of themselves.)
16:51 Turco freezes a shot, giving FSN a chance to show us baby Travis scoring his first career acorn last year against Dallas. Awww… It brings a tear.
16:47 Chico says the Devils need something to spark the crowd and this game. “I think,” he says a bit sadly, “[they need] a goal even more than a hit.” Pookie: “Really? Because I thought just a hit would do it.”
14:12 The Stars have a slow-moving rush up the ice (very like a slow-moving, underwater robot in a Bond movie) that is defended atrociously by an utterly oblivious Vish-Dog. Schnookie sighs, “I hope Greener and Oduya weren’t watching Vish-Dog on that play.” Pookie: “Sutter’s like, ‘I specifically instructed them not to watch Vish-Dog. Only Martin and White.’”
12:34 Chico talks about how surprising it was that the Stars went with Turco, considering how well Smith has been playing lately. He praises Dallas’ coaching staff for “going with a gut feeling”. Yes, the gut feeling that the Devils’ stagnant offense will be eminently stoppable for even a struggling goalie.
11:41 Nice job, crowd – you guys might have been weak in numbers, but that was a very inspiring “Rangers suck!” shout.
11:08 WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Doc is as stunned as we are, and actually calls this play, “The wraparound is successful!” That’s right – Clarkson bulls along the boards behind Turco’s net, carries the puck around, and then whips it furiously in front at a very tight angle, beating Turco through his legs. 2-1 Stars. The only problem with that goal is that it’s just going to encourage Clarkson to keep shooting on wraparounds.
9:29 Barnes suddenly explodes toward the net after a lazy approach in the neutral zone lulls the Devils to sleep. Marty stops his shot, but still appears to be fighting hard.
8:11 A seriously uptempo shift by the Madden line, powered by the motor of Clarkson, fizzles to nothing when Brookbank shanks a pointshot heinously. Schnookie: “Oduya’s probably thinking, ‘I can do that!’ And Sutter’s got to reiterate, ‘I said to watch White and Martin. No Brookbank. Ignore him.’”
5:51 We are gobsmacked to discover there is a dasher ad at The Rock for Swedish Fish. We are also immeasurably disappointed that they didn’t buy the naming rights.
4:59 Brookbank gets called for hooking. FSN spares us a replay, instead giving us a look at Clarkson on the bench, absently tapping his stick against the boards in time with the “let’s all clap in rhythm” thing blaring out of the PA system. Pookie: “I hope that’s subconscious. And that he also can’t help but add ‘The Rangers suck!’ into the Chicken Dance.”
4:34 Whitey clears the puck over the glass, giving the Stars a 5-on-3, which, considering how Marty’s playing, might as well be a 5-on-0. Pookie: “Sutter’s throwing his hands up and saying to Greener and Oduya, ‘Fine! Just watch Martin!’”
2:59 Well we’ll be damned. The 5-on-3 is killed, and mostly on the strength of Marty making one great save after another.
2:34 Aaaaand the 5-on-4 is done, too. We guess we owe Marty an apology, albeit a very small one.
1:12 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Zach puts on his motor, hustling hard into the corner to beat a Star and tap the puck to Patty, who finds a streaking Gio with a seeing-eye pass, and Gio, diving headfirst through the slot, fires the puck past Turco while falling to the ice. 2-2 game.
0:03 Some sort of stupid-assed wipeout happens behind the net when Rachunek blows a tire and takes out Madden and a Star, and the puck ends up out front where the Stars are outnumbering the Devils something awful. Marty goes down, with a Star (Starry McStarson?) holding and holding and holding, just waiting to loft a shot over his glove… and Pando comes out of nowhere, acting all disingenuously like Bambi on ice, and brilliantly stymieing the shot with his flailing legs. That’s defense!
0:00 And how can we tell this period was ten zillion times better than the last one? We get an interview with Clarkson! He seems to always be about the “working hard”. Hard work was what turned that period around for the Devils, and hard work was what led to his goal. Hard work, people. Hard work.
Dano has a much easier time talking during this intermission, getting to be happy for Clarkson instead of having to rank on Marty. There are many, many, many crushes – man- and otherwise – on David Clarkson throughout New Jersey right now.
When we cut back from commercial for Chico to walk us through the highlights, Doc channels his… we don’t know what. Inner beat? Outward spaz? You be the judge: “Two-two after two! Highlights brought to you by Resch’s mint-flavored hot dogs. How much mint? Just a hint. Go man!” Huh?
20:00 At the start of this period Chico is giving us one of his in-depth tours of the foodstuffs at The Rock, and Doc is just completely losing his shit. This is a series we hope they can maintain throughout the entire season – please, new arena, continue to have so many new types of foods (tonight’s tour is of the Portuguese dishes available) that Chico can do this every night. Pookie says, “This Chico-sampling-the-food thing started out as a shameless plugging-the-new-building thing, then it became this Chico’s-weird-Chiconess thing, and now it’s like the stepping-on-rakes bit in the The Simpsons.” It really does just keep getting funnier.
18:30 We glance up from laughing about Chico’s appetite in time to see Marty make a blocker save on a shot from the slot, and the Devils icing the puck in response. We go back to laughing about Chico’s appetite.
17:29 Brian Gionta is a former 48-goal scorer. Rod Pelley is not. So why, oh why, would Gio opt to go for the lousy pass back to Pelley on a two-on-one instead of driving to the net with a shot?
16:12 Langer makes a great swaggering move on a one-on-one with a defender, but he shovels his backhander right into Turco’s crest. There is an inexplicable whistle as the rebound bounces out to the side and Turco topples to the ice.
15:46 Clarkson lazily carries his stick at eye level and gets called for a minor when he rakes it across Morrow’s eye.
15:38 Pando flies down the wing to beat Zubov to a loose puck, takes a shot off one foot while losing an edge, and rings his shot off the far pipe (Doc calls it thinking he’s scored, but it seems he really only got all post on it), then falls hard into the boards. He hobbles off the ice, then goes straight to the dressing room. PandoNation, with its collective heart in its throat, barely registers that Madden very nearly beats Turco on a two-on-one before Pando’s all the way off the ice.
14:38 Marty makes an amazing stop on a great chance by Hagman, then Mottau makes an amazing save when the rebound kicks out to another Star. Pookie: “Sutter’s like, ‘Okay, watch Martin and Mottau.’”
12:03 Doc cheerfully reads some dumb ad thing after a puck deflects out of play, and Schnookie, deeply distressed by the Pando injury, hisses, “How can he be so chipper?”
10:58 Travis meets Modano at the blue line, causes the play to go offside, and somehow makes Modano drop his stick and fall to the ice like he’s been completely broken. Pookie: “Way to go, Travis!”
9:09 Modano swaggers into the Devils zone and all five guys in red peel off and directionlessly mosey about. Schnookie: “Why are we standing around watching Modano skate?”
9:03 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So that’s why they were all standing around watching Modano – he skates himself to nowhere, then tosses a weak pass into Zubrus’s skates. Zubie whips the puck to Langer, who darts out of the zone, then dangles up the rink waiting for Zubie to catch up on the two-on-one. One gorgeous Langer pass through the defender and one dazzling Zubie finish later, it’s 3-2 Devils. Chico pricelessly calls it, “Mike Modano, who has made the big play so many times before for the Stars… Well, he doesn’t on that one.”
6:44 Turco tries to fire the puck up the ice and instead goes tape-to-tape to Brylin above the faceoff dot instead. Alas, Sarge isn’t able to capitalize.
4:59 As the teams are wheeling up and down the rink, we are busy trying to think of what could be the funniest name to pair with this “Winchester” fellow on the Stars. Pookie wants him to be a defenseman paired with Cal Clutterbuck, but we decide we should try to think of a third guy to make a full line. There is some silence as we cast about for the funniest name, and Boomer says quietly, almost to herself, “Winchester, is the Stajan yet?” (Yuckety-yuck! Nothing’s too low for us!) At least a full minute passes before Pookie says, “Oh man, that took me forever to figure out.”
2:24 We are too tense to speak. The Devils keep managing to maintain their defensive footing, then carry down with ease for a modest chance that fails to score, then the Stars carry down again to start the whole process over.
1:30 Travis just flings the puck out from the corner to the front of the net after the Stars cough it up on their breakout, but a streaking Zach can’t convert.
0:37 We narrow our eyes with disgust at Ribiero after he calmly stops Zach’s shot at the empty net.
0:16 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! A Zach who’s hungry for the team goal lead will not be denied when there’s an empty net. 4-2 Devils.
0:00 Hot diggity damn! That was awesome! It was a hugely flawed win, but after a stinker of a first period, with its attendant craptacular goaltending, the team responded beautifully. It’s great to see the team build on the spark of Clarkson, and even better to see, as the game wore on, how confident every player looked all over the ice. They were forcing turnovers in the offensive zone, skating with purpose in the neutral zone, and were unflappable in the defensive zone. The only negative? Pando’s injury. Our “WOOOOOO!” tonight is tempered by a sad whimper on account of that. Of course, PandoNation will be mostly happy for the team winning, because that’s how Pando would want it.